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Posted: Friday August 19, 2011 12:06PM ; Updated: Friday August 19, 2011 12:10PM
WAC 2011 Conference Report
Is Fresno State ready to break out? Can Nevada's pistol still fire without its longtime gunslinger? What does life after Boise State look like? Matt Dollinger tackles that more in his 2011 WAC preview.
 
How They'll Finish
 
  Conference Overall
Fresno State 6-1 10-3
Nevada 6-1 9-3
Hawaii 5-2 9-4
Idaho 3-4 5-7
 
  Conference Overall
Utah State 3-4 5-7
Louisiana Tech 3-4 5-7
San Jose State 2-5 3-9
New Mexico State 0-7 2-11
 
Offensive MVP
 
QB
Bryant Moniz
2010 stats: 5,040 passing yards, 39 TDs, 15 INT; 3 rush TD
2011 projection: 4,850 passing yards, 35 TDs, 10 INT; 2 rush TD
Following in the footsteps of Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan, Bryant Moniz is the latest in Hawaii's long line of prolific QBs. He put up huge numbers last season, leading the nation in total offense (367.3 ypg), passing yards (5,040) and touchdown passes (39). The former walk-on scored seven touchdowns in one game last season and passed for 560 and 532 passing yards in two others. Despite the Warriors returning only three starters on offense, count on Moniz to again fuel one of the nation's top attacks.
 
Defensive MVP
 
DT
Logan Harrell
2010 stats: 10.5 sacks, 46 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 0 FF
2011 projection: 11 sacks, 50 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 FF
It's tough to replace a defensive tackle who led the conference in sacks. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they also have the guy who finished second. That would be Logan Harrell, who is more than capable of anchoring the line. The high-motored Harrell hounded quarterbacks for 10.5 sacks last season and was an All-WAC first-teamer. The versatile 275-pounder will move around Fresno's d-line this year, giving him opportunities to attack quarterbacks with his strength on the inside and speed on the edges.
 
Three Key Nonconference Games
 
Hawaii at Colorado
Saturday, Sept. 3
10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Warriors will look to avenge last season's loss in Boulder, when they blew a 10-0 halftime lead to fall 31-13. This year the Buffaloes travel to Hawaii as members of the newly expanded Pac-12. With revenge on their minds and the competition in rebuilding mode, the Warriors could make up for 2010.
 
Nevada at Oregon
Friday, Sept. 10
3:30 p.m. ET
Nevada faces the unenviable task of opening its season in Eugene, where its last and only win came 64 years ago. Since then, the Wolf Pack have gone 0-5 against the Ducks, losing by an average of 23 points. Making matters worse, Oregon has won 16 of its last 17 home openers. An upset would be a huge feather in Chris Ault's cap and would stand as the WAC's signature victory of the year.
 
Boise State at Fresno State
Friday, Oct. 7
9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Remember us? Boise State takes on two of its old WAC foes in this season, including this Friday night game against the Bulldogs. Boise delivered a 51-0 smackdown last season, but Fresno State hosts this year and is due for a breakout campaign.
 
Key Conference Game
 
Fresno State at Nevada
Saturday, Oct. 22
4:05 p.m. ET
The conference's two heavyweights square off in a game that will likely decide the WAC title. Nevada has won the matchup the last three years, but lost 10 starters from last season, most notably star quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Fresno lost by just one point in 2010 and might be ready to change the tide with a win in Reno.
 
Three Key Questions
 
Can Nevada's pistol offense still fire without its gunslinger? With Kaepernick in the NFL, the Wolf Pack turns to senior Tyler Lantrip, who finally gets his chance after waiting in the wings for years.
Will Fresno State survive its schedule? The Bulldogs open their season on the road at California and Nebraska, then host Ole Miss and Boise State in October. With road games at Nevada and Hawaii to boot, the Bulldogs have as tough a slate as anyone.
Who will emerge from the pack? The conference's top three teams are fairly set, but a number of squads with easy nonconference schedules could make a run at the throne. With Boise State now in the Mountain West, anything is possible.
 

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